A Different Look Towards Valentines
1/29/2009 | Author: RCW
The topic of love is everywhere in our society. That Valentine's Day is approaching simply brings it more prominently to our attention. The world's notion of love is starkly different than real and genuine biblical love.

I think the world is in love with the thought of love. Romance is another word for it. Sometimes all that people equate love with is some sort of strong sexual attraction. For the disciple growing in Christ, it is plain that there is a stark difference between mere erotic impulses and enduring, persevering, unconditional, self-sacrificing biblical love.

I won't rattle off the countless scriptures which help outline what love is. There are many that would suffice, but this topic is not actually the topic I was aiming to discuss.

Rather, I wanted to use "love" in the non-romantic sense altogether. Better words for what I speak of would include words like: "worship," or "affinity," or "admiration." Basically, I simply wanted to let you know about a certain concept that is absolutely central to discipleship.

One new book by a professor/mentor of mine speaks of this concept precisely . I have spoken of Dr. Naugle before in a previous blog. His new book is entitled Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness and you can well imagine its subject matter. In the book, I believe Dr. Naugle is picking up on St. Augustine's idea of the "ordered loves."

This may not mean a hill of beans to you just yet. But here's how it can:

Think for a minute about all the things that fit into your own priorities. Your likes and dislikes, your affections for a thousand things, people, places, events, substances, etc. Can you put them in order? what comes to the top? What fits at the bottom? Should they? Distinguish between what you would like to be at the top and what actually is at the top based upon your actions and lifestyle. If that takes two separate lists entirely, make two. Pray about the list.

God, may you have us so in Your hand and be so shaping us that we may continually conform to Your image and likeness. Just as You are holy, may we be holy in all that we do...especially in our priorities. For the things that we orient our lives around are the things that we love the most; and in turn, the things that we love the most are the things which we indeed worship and devote ourselves unto. Oh God, may you help us all to rightly order our loves. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, minds that know, wills to obey, and hearts to love - YOU above all. Amen.

What Sums You Up?
1/27/2009 | Author: RCW
I am beginning to teach a college and young adult Bible study class on Sunday. For curriculum, I am using John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life.

The premise is so very basic, but the message somehow seems to be so needed among those in our churches today. I am not sure why the enormous disconnect (between church on Sunday and the rest of the work week Monday through Saturday) continues to be so prevalent, but when I look around, it has every indication of being an epidemic.

Here is the message:

Life is so precious. You have but one to live. A simple but unforgettable proverb used to rest above the sink where I once did dishes to help pay for my theological education. I was often caught up in worship as I scrubbed. It read: "Life is like a shiny penny. You may spend it however you wish, but you may only spend it once."

John Piper shares of a similar jingle which was hung prominently in his home and continually brought him inspiration as a young man:
"Only one life, 'Twill soon be past; Only what's done for Christ will last."

What this "jingle" DOES NOT mean is that only Bible study, prayer, time at church, mission trips, and the like count for worthwhile or even "eternal" pursuits. What is DOES mean is that anything that you do for Christ...a worshipful act of any sort - whether it is reporting for your job 15 minutes early on a Monday just to be sure and set a Christian example of a godly work ethic, or changing your baby's diapers so that your spouse doesn't have to because you want to love them with Jesus' own sacrificial love, etc. - only what's done for Christ will last. This clarification is so important because it helps us not to see life divided into compartments of "sacred" time and "secular" time, but to embrace ALL of our life - every single circumstance or activity - as "sacred" time. May every moment be unto Him!

One of the many things I love about one of my own alma maters, Wheaton College (which for the record is where John Piper went to school as well back in the 60's ), is its motto: "For Christ and His Kingdom."

The Bible says: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

So, what is the verdict? Is your life "counting" by bringing glory to God? Or are you wasting it by worshipping and pursuing other things? Where does your relationship and growth in Christ fit into your priorities? Make HIM your single passion and suddenly real, abundant, eternal life will begin.


P.S. For additional related thoughts on this subject matter, there is a wealth of literature. A good start is the book of Proverbs or the book of James, perhaps even Ecclesiastes. The book entitled The Call by Os Guinness is pure gold. You can also see my previous entry here. In the world of literature, there is a phenomenal short work by Samuel Johnson about a prince named "Rasselas" who has to choose a way of life (readable online here). I read it in a literature class in college and it has never left me. These are only a few for starters.
Failing Forward
1/10/2009 | Author: RCW
I had to hunt down the place that I had seen the title of this entry ("Failing Forward") before. Turns out the title is borrowed from a John Maxwell book I once saw (though I KNOW the contents are not very similar). If I insert a link to the book here, I am sure no one will sue me. :)

Anyway, since it has been a while since I wrote anything, I will pick up the laptop (no more pens I suppose) and write.

The date is difficult...January 14th is now upon us. Our resolutions have recessed into the back of our consciences. Our priorities -- so sleekly and newly structured at the New Year -- have relapsed and slid back into their default positioning. Our gym membership we were so excited to get for Christmas hasn't been used in 6 days and we have plans every night for the next week that will keep us from breaking the trend.

I don't know if this describes you, but the bottom line is that January can be one of the most depressing months for many people - myself included. It's still cold outside, the sun doesn't always show itself, and perhaps your favorite football team is done for the year.

Maybe you've never noticed this rather depressing January phenomenon that I'm describing, but for many people it is very real. For some people, their entire spirituality suffers. After all, depression is something that can really disrupt or dissolve our spiritual lives if we allow it. One of the most common ways this is seen is at New Year's when Christians make lofty goals -- a goal of reading the Bible every day or spending 30 minutes in prayer every day, memorizing x number of scriptures per month, etc. Many times, by January 14th, people lose heart and simply give up.

If that's you, DON'T.

Don't resign to failure. In the words of one of my favorite bands (though ripped from their original context, of course): "Don't write yourself off yet."

Consider Hebrews 12....
In Hebrews 11, we are presented with a series of "heroes of faith." The writer of Hebrews (whoever it is...there is not much agreement upon who wrote it) presents many pillars of faith from the Old Testament and tells of how they trusted in God even though they didn't always get to see results. Hebrews 11:1 - "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction (or evidence) of things not seen."

The sum of Hebrews 11 is that all of those Old Testament characters had to exercise faith in God because the things He promised them and the things they hoped for...they were not always seen. In fact, MOST of the fulfillment of God's promises weren't seen in their lifetimes.

Hebrews 12:1-11 picks right up and says, on account of all these people who have gone before us, "Therefore...." Well, you should read it for yourself here.

Press on. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You are not under law, but under grace. You walk by faith and not sight. Run with perseverance. Shed hindrances to your faith...even when they come from your own thoughts.

Don't allow the enemy to paralyze you in the present because of what has happened in the past. It's one of his more clever and predictable schemes.

Today is a brand new day to live for Christ. What we all seem to remember is that Ephesians says that it is by grace through faith that we have been saved. What is easy to forget is that Colossians turns around and says this: Therefore in the same way as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk (live your lives) in Him..."


P.S. If you have a hard time thinking of failures and struggles being opportunities to grow in your faith, or if you think that doubts and depression are not part of a true Christian's life, I would strongly challenge you to think differently. There are plenty of great resources on the topic. There are plenty of lives throughout church history to testify about it. There is plenty in the scriptures to correct such error. I rest confident that doubt and disillusionment in the Christian life can be a tremendous catalyst for spiritual growth - I'm living proof.